Wednesday, 20 April 2016

One Man's Opinion: APRIL SKIES by IAN AYRIS



'Ronnie Swordfish getting killed has got me radar bangin through the roof, like all them eyes I see in the shadows, everywhere I go, they're all opened up at once - all at the same time.'

Abide With Me is a special book by a special writer. That was released way back in 2012. It excited the hell out of me when I read it, so when I sat down with the sequel I was a little nervous.

April Skies (US) continues the story of John Sissons. There’s a big jump in time from when he was last on the page and there’s been a lot of water under the bridge. The still waters, mind, are ever-present and they run about as deep as is possible within a human being.
John remains loyal in all the right places. His family and friends are his moons and he’s happiest when they’re orbiting close by. His dead father is still the brightest star in his sky.

John’s working the markets with his stepdad. Adapting to life out of jail. Keen to live a normal life, yet desperate to avoid being ground down by the routines and obligations he sees everywhere. Unfortunately, he’s haunted by ghosts from his colourful past. Those from his future become more threatening every day. As the story progresses and Ronnie Swordfish is killed in prison, the past and future bleed into each other until they’re duelling at screaming pitch. As John prepares for the inevitable backlash caused by Swordfish’s demise, the fabric of everything he holds dear begins to crumble. The foundations of his family, friends, budding romances, factory work and his beloved West Ham United all wobble as he slowly unravels. John’s need to hold it all together is what provides the tension and drama because we know he’s never going to be able to manage.  

As the story comes together and John’s fears materialise, the tension is palpable. It’s real edge-of-the-seat stuff. I couldn’t bear it at times, yet equally couldn’t look away. The whole piece is utterly compelling and ultimately rather beautiful.

The cover says a lot about April Skies. It shows a factory billowing out smoke underneath a claret sky. It’s a sunset of sorts. Holds that point between the dark and the light in the way Ian Ayris does with his prose.
It’s told in the first person and this allows a real intimacy with a narrator who is open and frank about everything. You won’t read many better central characters and you won’t often feel this close to a protagonist, I reckon.  

You really don’t need to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this second. Ayris makes gentle references to Abide With Me all the way through. They speak for themselves and offer enough of background for the uninitiated to keep them straight. As for my nerves in relation to the sequel, I should have known better. I loved Abide With Me, but I think April Skies is even better.
  
A gently caveat. There’s a lot of swearing in this book. It adds a level authenticity and layers of character to the story. If you don’t like profanity, this one’s not for you. I only mention this because I hope this novel will gather the plaudits and loving reviews it deserves and I wouldn’t want those raves to be tarnished by folk who couldn’t see beyond the language to what really matters. To me it’s just part of the purity of the work. 

5 comments:

  1. Good to see Ian is still at it. Hope all is well!

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    1. Thank you, Sean. Holding things together over here. Good to see your name pop up too. Hope you're keeping well your end :)

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  2. Good to see Ian is still at it. Hope all is well!

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    1. Isn't it just. I hope his next book doesn't take quite so long to get here.

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    2. I wish I could guarantee that, Nigel. 10K into the new one, so there is some hope it might be out in the next five years or so . . . ;)

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